AUTHOR- Virginia Woolf
PUBLISHED IN- 1927
Here comes another classic book. The thing about such books is that one can never fully conquer it. It even took too much of time for me to complete it. The major factor of that was because throughout the novel, nothing essential happens. The novel is divided into three parts: The window, Time passes and The lighthouse. The novel centers around a group of people before and after the war, although war is not the major theme of the book. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay and their eight children, Lily Briscoe, Charles Tansley, William Bankes and a few other guests center around the first part of the book. Although the first part consists of 114 pages but it concerns the events of a particular evening only where the Ramsays and the guests decide to go to the lighthouse but they don’t due to the rain. The second part tells the reader about the happenings during the war within a short 20 pages where a few characters are faced by death. Lastly, the third chapter tells us how they finally visit the lighthouse. That’s it. That’s just the plot. Then you may wonder if I gave out the plot in three lines then what did I read in those 190 pages?
I had never read a book as this one wherein it focused on the minute details of the everyday things. Both, during reading the book and after finishing it, I was continuously consulting over websites over what some particular phrase meant or what was the importance of a simple thing such as a paintbrush. It felt like the entire book was filled with various kinds of metaphors sprouting from all direction. One thing which was different for me here was the concept of “stream of consciousness” employed by the author. It is a literary style in which a character’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions are depicted in a continuous flow uninterrupted by objective description or conventional dialogue. For example, let suppose you are witnessed a car accident. You stop your vehicle, wonder if it is actually an accident, wonder then whether anyone could be hurt, then you think of whether you should go check it out, then you think whether or not it would be okay to get out of the vehicle without taking out the keys and reach a final decision, then you look at the keys and your eye falls on a white crumb that fell on the floor of the car sometime, you wonder what you had been eating that could have left a white crumb, then you remember that you should definitely go and check the accident et cetera, et cetera. Now that’s a stream of consciousness. A human mind is far from stable. A person can undergo all these thoughts within a few seconds. That’s how the book was written, completely concentrating on the thoughts and there were so few dialogues.
Besides that aspect, the narration was done in third perspective but it kept on changing the person from whose perspective the readers were supposed to know the story. the changing perspectives kept the entire story alive regardless of it’s absence of a solid plot. It was a delight to read in that manner. If some thing is happening, you get to witness how everyone present there was apprehending it as the narration jumped from one character to next. Perhaps one of the most intriguing part of the book was the dinner. What was rather interesting was from outside, an ordinary being could just witness that a simple dinner was being held but with the way Woolf described it by making the story flow through each individual minds, it felt anything but a simple dinner. It was an avenging war within itself. One moment everybody was a solid mess in their minds but within a few minutes, they were all happy and gone were those forlorn thoughts.
I am aware that I have only dealt with the technical aspect of the novel, leaving out the minute yet important details such as Lily’s constant need to prove herself as an independent woman by painting. I haven’t comprehended the book fully. There are a lot many things that confuse me to the core, several things that enrage me even and yet I haven’t found proper justice to any of those emotions.
Here are some quotes that I thought were especially nice:
“What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”
“He smiled the most exquisite smile, veiled by memory, tinged by dreams.”
“About here, she thought, dabbling her fingers in the water, a ship had sunk, and she muttered, dreamily half asleep, how we perished, each alone.”
“It was odd, she thought, how if one was alone, one leant to inanimate things; trees, streams, flowers; felt they expressed one; felt they became one; felt they knew one, in a sense were one; felt an irrational tenderness thus (she looked at that long steady light) as for oneself.”